News / Africa

Abortion Weighs Heavily in Reproductive Rights Debate

Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated there are more than 45 million abortions worldwide every year. Reproductive rights advocates say more than half are unsafe, causing many injuries and deaths among young women. They say protecting adolescent women should be part of the development agenda. The issue was discussed at an event at a Washington think tank.

Many unintended, many unsafe

Leila Hessini is director of community mobilization at Ipas, an NGO working to end preventable deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions. She spoke at a recent event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“Every year, there are 87 million unintended pregnancies. So this is 41 percent of all pregnancies. And this is really a figure that we need to unpack and understand because so much contributes to that. It’s about unmet need for contraception. It’s about sexual violence. It’s about contraception being unaffordable. So there are a lot of reasons that go into this,” she said.

Hessini said 33 million of the unintended pregnancies are among women using contraceptives. She says that means either a failure of the contraceptive itself or in the way in which it’s used.

“Every year there are 46 million abortions. Half of these, 21.6 million, are unsafe. The vast majority of these unsafe abortions are in the Global South. They’re in developing countries. And 30 to 60 percent of adolescent pregnancies end in abortion,” she said.

In sub-Saharan African countries, a high percentage of deaths from unsafe abortions are among adolescent women.

Abortions take place in countries where laws range from allowing easy access to no access at all.

Hessini said, “Forty percent of the world’s women live in countries where abortions are available, what we say, on request. Even though there’s always, as we know, different limitations and restrictions to abortion. Another 26 (percent) live in countries where abortion is only available to save a woman’s life or is prohibited altogether. And those you who follow the abortion debates know that abortions are totally prohibited in certain countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Malta and the Vatican City.”

Protection of women needed

Jennifer Redner, a consultant for the International Women’s Health Coalition, said too often basic rights are not protected.

“In too many places, the fundamental right of every woman and girl to control her body simply isn’t recognized. For a girl, control over her body and her sexual life requires more than access to health services. Her most basic human rights – freedom from violence, discrimination and coercion – must be protected both in their own right and to enable her access to services,” she said.

Redner said solutions to the problems are not new. They just haven’t been fully implemented.

“Multi-sectoral programming that works with adolescent girls and their communities to address the multiple barriers that girls face accessing health services, attending school, preventing early marriage, preventing violence and building the economic assets of girls will contribute to our collective goals of ensuring that girls can safely transition to adulthood and can be economically productive members of their community,” she said.

Fiercely debated

Abortion, whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, remains a controversial, hotly debated and fought-over issue.

Taryn Hodgson is the international coordinator of the Christian Action Network based in Cape Town, South Africa.

She said, “Firstly, abortion is never safe, especially not for the baby, who is killed in the process. So whether it’s legal or illegal abortion is never safe for the baby. It’s also never safe for the woman. Statistics from the Elliott Institute, who’ve done peer reviewed research into post abortion issues, have found that at least over 60 percent of women are coerced into having abortions.”

She said that coercion comes from parents, husbands or boyfriends. Hodgson says consequences of having an abortion include depression, nightmares and grief. She added legal abortions do not lower maternal death rates.

“Maternal deaths can be prevented with adequate nutrition, basic health care and good obstetric care throughout the pregnancy at delivery and post-partum,” she said.

The Christian Action Network official said this is especially true in many African countries with poor health care systems. As for women having control over their own bodies, Hodgson said, “It’s not a question of whether she should have control over her body. She now has a child, not a choice. The issue of children’s rights, right from conception, needs to be addressed.”

South Africa legalized abortions in 1997. Hodgson says despite that there’s been an increase in illegal or back street abortions because the government has not cracked down on them. What’s more, she says, pills to induce abortion are now readily available on many street corners in South Africa.

She said abortion should be banned under all circumstances, adding that cases in which the mother’s life is in danger are rare. In that case, however, she said the doctor should try to save both lives and not choose who will live.

The Elliott Institute mentioned by Hodgson is in Springfield, Illinois. It says its strategy is to end abortion with compassion. And that the welfare of a mother and her unborn child are inseparable.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid